Testimonials directly from members
From Jennie Funk (1.5 Seasons):
I play the violin – I have been playing since I was 3 1/2 years old, but I have taken a couple of breaks from playing continuously. I started playing with the Haag-Leviton Suzuki Academy of Performing Arts located in Chicago, Illinois and was a member of their Performing Group – playing in Orchestra Hall every year as well as other concert locations around the Chicago-land area and a few other major cities. My last concert was probably around age 13 where I played Violin 1 of a duet playing the Bach Double in the Golden Dome in Fairfield, Iowa, but continued to play periodically throughout the rest of my life up until now. My longest hiatus from playing was maybe as long as 5 years. I have always missed playing with a group of people since my Performing Group concert days, and was so excited when I found Westwood Ensemble! I joined in on the season before the pandemic and really enjoyed learning the songs and being able to play as part of an orchestra. The music pieces Mr. Lane picks are so original, fun, and challenging, and not ones you would typically hear at other concerts. When we added the brass and winds, it was even more rewarding to be part of a full symphony! I work as a Registered Nurse and have a busy family, so sometimes finding the time to learn the songs, practice, or be able to play again has been challenging, but I do love the opportunity to be a member of this ensemble!
From Robyn Bellner (3 Seasons):
I am currently 23 years old and have been playing violin consistently since I was nine years old, and trombone since I was ten. I took a brief break from playing in 2016 when I graduated high school due to a car accident, and the fact that I couldn’t find a place to play the violin while I was at Johnson County Community College. I am a former student of Mr. Lane’s from Shawnee Mission East and was talking to him about trying to find a place to play while I was in community college but came up with nothing until Mr. Lane came up with Westwood Ensemble. I immediately agreed to play in the group and was a part of every concert until two concerts prior to the pandemic shut down because I go to school in Wichita. I came back for the restart concert because I missed the group so much, and I plan on playing in the fourth season! I am currently is an undergraduate student at Friends University, pursuing my degree in instrumental music education, doubling on trombone and violin, violin being my “secondary” instrument in terms of my degree. I don’t consider one instrument more “primary” than the other, but I had to declare one for my major. I plan on pursuing a master’s degree in music performance on trombone and continuing my study of violin during that. Currently, I work at Genesis Health Clubs in their Kid’s Club. I still reside in Wichita, but miss this ensemble enough that I plan on making the three-hour drive weekly to be a part of it!
From Mirah Nash (3.5 Seasons):
After a 22 year hiatus from playing my violin, I have loved every moment of WE. The friendships. The music playing. We all come from different professions (I am a dental hygenist), but yet, we come together to perform together. Mr. Lane asked me to play my violin for this ensemble. I declined twice before saying yes. I hadn’t played my violin since high school. My skill level is nowhere it used to be. But I was welcomed with open arms. I enjoy playing way more now than I used when I was a little kid. I am playing now because I want to play. My parents get a kick out of me playing the violin as something I choose to do now. I have played in every single WE concert. I am so excited for another season!
From Mary Morgan (1 Season):
After a long absence from performing and playing my violin, I started picking it up again a couple of years ago to bring a little bit of joy to our Veterans at the Kansas City VA Medical Center and also a group of Care Centers that I volunteer with around Missouri and Kansas. From these simple moments, I remembered why I started playing, how much I love the violin and the peace that I feel when I play, and more so, in watching people when they hear the music from an instrument or hear a song. They go to a place that is full of beautiful memories, solace, and oh the smiles that beam as they join in or clap to a piece they know. I knew then I really wanted, no, needed, to get back to playing and I started taking violin lessons again here at UMKC under the instruction of Ms. En-Ting Hsu. After a few months, she kept asking why I wasn’t playing and I kept telling her “I wasn’t ready”; “I’ve lost too many of my skills to perform”, etc. so many excuses and of course there is the time factor! I work full time, I have a crazy busy schedule (like so many) but I have to tell you playing again has really helped me find some balance in my life and it has been fun to focus on something other than “work”, “life stress” and it has been an absolute blast to be “put in place” on one passage, one measure that I just can’t play the first, second or third time and have to really work at getting it “right”. My dog and two cats would tell you otherwise, but what can I say! So how did I get involved with Westwood Ensemble? Ms. En-Ting Hsu. I went to my lesson she said that WE was taking auditions for string instrumentalists. She looked at me and said, “life is too short to not do something you love. We are making a video of your audition and I’m sending it in”. So, here I am. It has been the best thing that has happened. To be able to play again, to be part of an orchestra, to hear the tuning of the instruments, to find the rhythm of an orchestra where we are playing as one. It is so amazing and so worth the hours of practicing and rehearsing. There are no regrets and En-Ting is correct “life is too short to not do something you love.” Jonathan Lane and the Westwood Ensemble members have been so welcoming! The music has been challenging and fun to work on. The rehearsals are a blast (at least for me) as we take a piece and turn it into something really special! Then after all of the hard work we have the opportunity to perform in a concert and to make beautiful memories and let’s not forget the smiles as people take in the orchestral sounds of musicians performing! Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be part of something so special.
From Tiffany Truster (2.5 Seasons):
Westwood Ensemble lets me make music again. I played violin in high school, but as an adult, I got busy with other things like working and raising children and didn’t have the time or energy to continue to play. Then I heard about WE and came to rehearsal and rediscovered my love of playing the violin. My adult children, both of whom are also musicians, have played in concerts with me and also come to my concerts. It made me so proud when they came to hear me! The continued opportunity to create beautiful music and express my art is something I treasure. The music Jon chooses is challenging and artistic and expressive which makes us all work harder and achieve more together. Through my continued involvement with WE, I have made many friends who share my love of music. WE are not just a community orchestra, WE are a chance for musicians to make beautiful art. WE fills a hole in my heart that I didn’t know existed. I am so thankful for WE. I encourage everyone to come join us or come hear us play. Art is important and needs to be both expressed and appreciated!
From Concert Master Allison Ross (3.5 Seasons):
This group fills a unique musical niche in the KC area. By combining students, professionals, and amateur adult players, we have the opportunity to enjoy and learn from each other without age-related or technical barriers. Some of my students have performed with WE and had a fantastic time! It’s also great to be able to promote free concerts to anyone who wants an introduction to classical music. Maestro Jon Lane provides educational background on each of the program repertoire, so the audience has context for what they hear. Come see us soon!
From the Maestro Jonathan Lane:
Music has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. My mother played piano in our home and my father listened to jazz. I began playing double bass in a public-school elementary program. I later studied privately and played in our local youth symphony. Jazz and rock bands were also part of my musical life. Playing bass, conducting, and teaching music have always been a major part of my life. When I left my public-school teaching career behind I still wanted to be in music, however, at first, I did not know what that would look like. Former students, a conductor friend, and some other local musicians encouraged me to start an orchestra. Some said to start a youth symphony and others wanted a new community orchestra. I had always been a professional bass player so could I combine all three types of these ensembles into one?
The concept of Westwood Ensemble was now born. Our name comes from a former student who grew up in Westwood, Kansas. An ensemble is simply a group of things or people that goes together. I liked this word better than Symphony or Orchestra.
Sharing music and collaborating with others to make music and art makes me feel good. Music is a part of humanity. I am human first and a musician second. My conducting, teaching, and bass playing are all part of how I connect with and share humanity. Music is my sole purpose and passion. Westwood Ensemble was formed to fill a need for musicians to share and collaborate as well as to provide a valuable service to the local community. Westwood Ensemble is a place where musicians grow and people have access to music that is important historically and creatively.
I enjoy that our ensemble membership is diverse and all ages are welcome. Our audition process is simple and no one has been turned away. I am honored to lead Westwood Ensemble and my goal is to serve the players and audience by giving free, educational, entertaining, and enlightening concerts.